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April 30, 2006

What is the union doing about Resnet?

Yet again our on–campus residential Internet connection, Resnet, is in an abysmal state. This is nothing particularly new though, as it has had bad periods all year. What is annoying me at present is that there doesn't seem to be any official pressure on the University to sort it out.

The infrastructure was set up a few years ago by an external company contracted by the University to provide network access to the residences. While it worked reasonably well for the first few years it apparently began to suffer significant problems last year and finally the university terminated the contract at the beginning of this academic year. ITS immediately had to take over running the network which by this time was in a pretty sorry state.

Another factor comes in to play here. In past years file sharing had been going on inside the campus network by means of an internal only system (I'll leave out the details but I think everyone knows them). A few people downloaded the large files from outside the campus network and then propagated them internally putting little strain on the link to the outside world. At some point before or at the beginning of this academic year the University (not ITS) took the decision to outlaw the use of this particular system and ITS accordingly set about brining down any of these 'hubs' that appeared. The result, rather predictably, is that everyone now uses systems to download from off–campus such as BitTorrent, which puts an absolutely huge strain on the external link and cannot so easily been shut down. The original contractors had set up a network that simply is not capable of withstanding this sort of load but, up until the University's P2P ban, this had not been a problem. Whatever your opinion on the University’s decision politically, they did rather shoot themselves in the foot.

This is what ITS have to deal with and I really don't blame them for failing to begin with because they simply weren't prepared for it. However, it is now 6 months down the line and the situation is no better. ITS clearly don’t have the resources to cope with running both Resnet and the main campus network, including all its associated problems like security incidents and the E–mail system and so the university should have done something to sort it out by now. Simply putting pressure on ITS to deal with it isn't going to help so really they ought to be providing the resources to help them do their job or maybe even recontracting Resnet out to a more competent, established company and not just the cheapest deal this time!

The students union, while happy to campaign on various things that have little or no bearing on students here at Warwick, seem to be completely absent from this issue which definitely is affecting real students right here and now. There was a brief intervention by the Students Union in the form of a motion demanding compensation from Warwick Accommodation for a group of students who were without a connection for some time but I don't feel this was particularly useful for anyone except those directly involved. What I'd like to see is the students union demanding that the university get the situation sorted out as soon as possible. While Resnet is not officially part of our contract with Warwick Accommodation, the university continue to publicise our 'always on high speed internet connection' to prospective students and this is now just an out right lie. I'd like to see the union threaten the university with making it clear to these prospective students that this simply isn't true. Hopefully it won't come to that but something has to be done to make the university take this problem seriously.

Thinking about it, the union should demand that the provision of internet become part of the contracts with Warwick Accomodation so that any signifcant failures next year can be dealt with properly.

February 17, 2006


Why is it so impossible to just buy a simple cup of nice coffee. You bascially have a choice between stock Nescafe instant stuff out of a machine which takes absolutely awful, or a rather confusing choice of 15 fancy things with all sort of muck in them.

I have eventually ascertained that a 'latte' is about the nearest thing and so I have bought these from both 'Roccoco' and 'Cafe Library' or whatever they are called now. Don't get me wrong, in both cases the coffee itself was very nice but you have to fight your way through the froffy milk on top before you can get to it. This also means that for £1.15 or whatever, the coffee reaches only just past the half way mark, the rest is milk and air.

I just want a cup of coffee with a splash of milk in it, does everything have to be so damn trendy???

February 01, 2006

The Boar: ITS, ID and Investment banking.

For some reason I decided against going to my lecture this morning despite getting up in order to do so. Instead I have been reading this week's Boar. I have to say I disagreed with most of what I read. A short run down:

  • ITS - 3 articles on how incompetent they think ITS are, including one double page spread. While the occasional point is valid they again seem to merge a veriety of different problems all into one. See my IT Services and Resnet entry for my views on ITS bashing.
  • "Darwin versus God": While the article manages to keep fairly neutral, I do dislike anything which tries to give credibility to the idea of Intelligent Design being, in any way, a scientific theory. It may well be right and evolution wrong for all we know but evolution is a debated and tested theory now fairly well supported with evidence. I.D. is not testable and has no evidence (And no, you can't count not being able to explain things in any other way as evidence. Should we count the unknown acceleration of the Pioneer space probe as some divine creator blowing on them for amusement?). Evolution is a scientific theory, I.D is not, end of story.
  • "Invested Interest" – An article about the Careers Service being almost entirely devoted to financial companies. Mostly I agree with this one, the careers service seem to basically only give us the things that turn up on their doorstep – i.e the financial companies that directly push for warwick graduates. Surely the job of the Careers Service is to get out there, find other companies and encourage them to come here so we get a wide choice of graduate employeers?

Morning winge over. I shall try to make my next lecture and will have to be late for the Resnet focus group meeting. Incidently, this week's focus group meeting is at 12.30pm in Room H355, Humanities Building. If you have anything useful to say about resnet please turn up, they need as much feedback as possible at the moment, apart from being made aware that the Boar don't like them. Does the Boar like anyone these day?

January 27, 2006

Symantec Antivirus (and Jetico personal firewall)

Symantec antivirus… Don't install this. Ever. Even at gun point.
(and yes, this is the AV software recommended to you by ITS)

I have tried to avoid heavily computing based blog entries so far but this has annoyed me enough to write something public on it. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a reviews section for software.

I have just installed it, and very rapidly decided to uninstall it. My reasons for hating it were:

  1. It doesnt ask you where to install it, it just puts in in 'Program Files' which is on the wrong drive on my system.
  2. It installs 7 services, all for virus protection, 2 is excessive for any one piece of software.
  3. It makes the system horrifically slow. This is usual for Anti-virus programs with resident protection mechanisms but in this case it was unusable even with everything disabled.
  4. It crashes if the firewall denies it internet access after saying 'your network is not correctly configured'.
  5. 5 of the 7 processes remained running after disabling everything, and were in the top 7 in the list processes sorted by CPU usage.
  6. It keeps givnig those stupid baloon pop-ups which irritate me. Especially when it is just to say "you have just disabled resident protection" YES I KNOW, I JUST CLICKED IT.
  7. Having decided within a few minutes to uninstall it, it took me a good ten minutes to regain enough control of my system (which has been stable for 2 years now) to remove it.
  8. When you uninstall it, it doesnt actually uninstall everything, you have to go and clean up after it (Find LiveUpdate and remove)

ITS used to use and give a license for Kaspersky AV, which is must better though still not perfect. I wish they still did.

Rant ends.

To balance this out, if you know what you're doing and you want a firewall program get Jetico Personal Firewall . This is the most rigidly and sensibly built piece of software I've seen in ages. It has every feature you could possibly want in a firewall and is infinitely configurable, it is just out right brilliance, a credit to Jetico and to the computing industry as a whole.

January 26, 2006

Nuclear fusion and the energy debate

I was reading through bits of the BBC News site this morning as I do these days and found a short (video) report in the Sci-Tech section about the government launching a 3-month public debate about our future energy supplies. The general impression I get is that the government wants to re-invest in the nuclear power program (nuclear fission). I was slightly disconcerted that the BBC News' coverage and also the DTIs report on the subject contains no information about nuclear fusion. I've noticed in general that the vast majority of people have no idea what nuclear fusion is, which is slightly worrying considering the fact that the energy supplies and CO2 emissions debates have become important matters in the past few years.

The DTIs energy review does make one single reference to it:

The following pages provide an overview of those technologies that have a proven capability to generate significant amounts of electricity. It does not include technologies that are still in the early stages of Research and Development, such as nuclear fusion.

While it is a valid point that commerical production of electricity by nuclear fusion is a long way off, I wouldn't say it's "in the early stages of R&D". It's been in R&D since before 1950 and construction is about to begin on the latest large-scale experimental reactor . While I understand that it isn't going to be a direct factor anytime soon and cannot be entirely relied upon to save us from our energy problems, it will almost certainly have a huge impact on descisions made about the long term of energy production for the entire planet so people should at least be aware of it.

The currently known uranium fuel supplies for nuclear fission will only last about 50 years (DTI report) which leads to the reasonable argument that we perhaps shouldn't be building a host of new fission power plants when in half a centuary we will have the same problem all over again and have to start looking to more sustainable sources. Why not just build hundreds of wind turbines and such right now? Well, if fusion will be viable in 50 years time (ok, that's a bit of a stretch, 80 is more likely), in order to take over from fission, using all of our uranium supplies doesn't seem such bad idea. In fact, using all the uranium is surely a good idea since it will become increasing more sensible and economically preferable to use uranium for power rather than for nuclear weapons. In fact the DTI report does suggest that the fuels in old plants and bombs could increase the fission fuel supplies by up to 30 years.

So why does no one know anything about fusion? It's possible that I'm just mistaken and that they really do but just arn't interested. It's a shame really because energy and emmissions are likely to be two of our generation's greatest problems and nuclear fusion, given enough funding and help will be an almost certain and complete end to both for the imaginable future.

January 25, 2006

IT Services and Resnet

There seems to be a great deal of moaning and winges about IT services recently, both on here and in general around campus, especially with regard to ResNet.

I have just come from the Resnet focus group meeting, to which all students who wish to express problems with resnet are invited. This week there were two of us students there, and four people from ITS. If you really have something to say, come to the meetings.

For example, they've made some changes to the traffic shaping systems recently, and need some feedback about how the network was performing last weekend. Fortunately for me, I was away from the curse of technology on the weekend and so couldn't help. The other student reported that it wasn't any worse than before the changes and so we've all assumed that it's at least bearable at the moment. If you don't agree or you'd actually like to talk to ITS about their level of service rather than sitting around winging or throwing abuse at them, then come and actually do something useful about it.

Before anyone moans about the 'incident' on the weekend, I'd like to point out that I believe they did the right thing – initially at least. They very quickly dealt with a situation where everyones accounts were at risk. You may moan about having to change your passwords but how would you like to have all of your work deleted by someone whos broken into your account? Also, it should be pointed out that the usual method of dealing with an incident of that sort, in the short term, is to take the entire system offline, how would you have liked that?

I can't pretend that I don't think they made any mistakes though, particularly with regard to the handling of communication of the login grace period. I think they now realise that communication of the 2 login grace period to people using the web-based single sign-on system or the accursed Groupwise webmail system would have saved them the few thousand helpdesk calls and massive queues outside the computing centre on Monday. The two of us that did turn up to the resnet meeting have suggested some ways we think they can improve this and deal with it in a much better way if it ever happens again, but this is just our opinion, how are they supposed to ever improve anything is all they get is abuse and winging from people that don't even have anything constructive to say??

With regard to Novell Groupwise, everyone is fully aware of its complete inability to cope with the university's email and ITS are working to migrate everyone over to the new system. Please abuse Groupwise itself as much as you like, hopefully anything written on here about it will eventually come up in search engine queries for 'Groupwise', as it is one of the most useless and unstable systems I've ever had the displeasure to use.

October 29, 2005

South Central and Anti–Rants

I was wandering around campus earlier with a south central baguette. I'd gone there having discovered I had absolutely no food at home and south central was where we always used to go last year during lab days.

I was thinking to myself how annoying it is that the price has gone up this year and that the bread never seems to be perfectly cooked anymore then it occured to me that it was infact still good food. It's just that it doesn't seem as great as it was last year.

For £2, those baguettes are fairly large, you have a choice of loads of different fillings all of which are reasonably good, it's not like its really cheap manky ingredients. The bread is baked(mostly) fresh on premisis (I think) and the various mixtures seem freshly prepared aswell. I usually go for the prawn or the makeral as I do like fish and I'm not personally a lover of sticky chicken mixtures. It's quite quick to get served and pay even when there is a massive queue and it was the only decent lunch I could get last year when I lived in leamington and was stuck on campus. So I decided in conclusion South Central is still excellent, even if not quite as superb as last year it's still damn good and is a credit to the Union (especially when you consider what the University has to offer). After thinking all of this, I decided to come and write this entry as an 'anti-rant', as I think I moan about things far too much.

Feeling slightly more positive about life I wandered into the union and got this weekend's signup list which wasn't rediculously full for a change, then wandered to our pigeon whole room and checked the weather for sunday (not great but then it is almost winter so what do you expect??). I also got a cup of tea from 'Cafe Library', always a good boost and wandered to my computing lecture. During all of this I saw several people I know, which is nice because one problem this year has been that most of my friends have graduated and I didn't seem to know many people anymore. So I've decided with all this very out of character positivity that I shall try to always inter-space my rants with anti-rants of some sort, find something positive for every moan I make.

October 27, 2005

Graduate Careers

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

I was writing a comment on the above entry but it got a bit long, so its become a post.

I looked around a few of these coperate graduate fairs last year and came to a stratergy. If you read the company name and the big text on their stand background and can't work out what they do, ignore them.

To give some examples you might read 'BT – British Telecoms', Ok I know who they are, probably not the best but i've got somewhere.
DSTL is "Defence Science and Technology Laboratory", ok thats great, I know what they do and who they are in 5 words.
But then there are the big companies such as, and this is my favourite as we get bombarded with rubbish by them, Accenture:

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation. Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and govenments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills, and technologies to help clients improve their performance.

What the hell does that mean? It's an entire paragraph of absolute rubbish that tells me nothing at all. The word 'technology' is the only one that actually gives a vauge idea of what it means. To this day I still have no idea what accenture do.

Fortunately, now I'm planning todo a PhD and have a good idea of where I want to work anyway so have told the careers service to remove my details from their database. I now no longer receive City and Finance job offers and careers information. I originally put myself on the careers system under Science/Technology. I really wish the careers service would try to find some real and useful science jobs for warwick's graduates and stop trying to tempt them to waste their lives on finance jobs.

Rant ends.

October 08, 2005

Warwick Sport

I did promise myself I wouldn't use this blog to winge, but I want to see what people think about this brand new shiny warwick sport. I couldn't seem to find any recent discussion of it on the blogs.

I run the gliding club this year and did so last year. We are technically a sports club and so fall under the control of the Sports Federation and now Warwick Sport. Despite this we are not a typical sports club, i.e I don't think we've ever been to score and most of our members come on our trips only once or twice through the year.

The thing about Warwick Sport that most people outside of sports seem to be complaining about is the membership fee which is now £30 rather than the old Sports Federation's £15. The increase is supposedly to pay for the sports centre facilities and to go to the club's budgets which were apparently being underfunded in previous years. It's true, our budget has gone up by 50% on last year and we are using this to subsidise the flying of our members so the saving is passed on.

On the other hand, we don't use the sports centre. We dont need a gym, sports health support or anything like that. We especially don't need the swimming pool for gliding, unless we wanted to attempt a water landing or something I guess. So I not sure why we are paying for this.

Personally I can cope with the student membership fee increase to £30, but I have slightly more problem with the associate membership fee, which has risen from around £45 or something last year to £130. Their argument for this goes along the lines of 'we want all the funding to benefit students only and not pay for people who arn't part of the university'. This is a fair argument in theory, until you look at clubs like us (I'd guess that it applies to quite a few others aswell).

It takes quite a few years to get into gliding. Flying is not like playing football or swimming which most people can do, at least vaguely, when they start uni. So all of our more enthusiastic members are usually in their last year. These are people who run the trips, are on the exec and organise everything. It's not exactly simple running trips to the airfield, its quite a hazerdous place with lots going on and no amount of union risk assesments, impact courses or other assorted paperwork will stand in for a trip leader who knows what they are doing. This year all these sort of people have graduated, leaving me to run the club by myself. Being nice people, they are willing to drive all the way from wherever they are in the country, run trips for the club and help out organising things. So now, we repay their dedication to helping the new student members by trying to charge them £130 for the privelidge of helping run things. Does this seem wrong to anyone else?

To be fair, Zain, the new sports officer has been trying to find a way around this because he agrees I can't run the club by myself and the student members will suffer from the charge. He seems to be taking quite a long time to sort this out though and in theory, he is the head of the Sports Federation. He is a sabatical officer and should have a lot of control over the students union sports organisations. I don't know this for sure, but I just get the feeling that he doesn't actually have the same power now that Warwick Sport is under joint control of the university and the student's union. Have we sold off our sports federation?

Another more minor annoyance is that Lisa, the sports administrator and all the sports clubs admin is now in the sports centre, but yet the union computer systems, club pigeon holes and Zain, the sports officer are still in Union North. I have spent much of the past few weeks walking between the two buildings.

I have heard from a few people that the overall memberships are significantly down from previous years. Our's is a little less than normal but then it always tends to grow steadily throughout the year.

I'd like to hear what other clubs think about the new Warwick Sport to see what the general feeling is, especially if any other clubs have the problem with associate memberships that we do.

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